Preview by: Jack Foley
VETERAN writer, Paul Haggis, has become something of a hot property
since his Oscar success for penning Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning
Million Dollar Baby.
Yet the writer has now turned director for Crash, a critically-acclaimed
urban thriller that's based on personal experience.
Fifteen years ago, Haggis and his wife had their car stolen at
gunpoint - but the writer is able to see the funny side of it
As well as the director's vehicle, the thieves also got away
with a video rental of a Norwegian film Haggis has rented out
for the night.
The film in question was about fishermen and prompted Haggis
to ponder what his assailants must have thought about his choice
of movie (particularly as he had a 'hot date' with him at the
The ordeal and subsequent questions provide much of the inspiration
for Crash, a tragi-comedy focusing on the lives of several characters
and their racial attitudes in California.
The characters in question include a Brentwood housewife and
her DA husband, a Persian store owner, two police detectives who
are also lovers, a black television director and his wife, a Mexican
locksmith, two car-jackers, a rookie cop and a middle-aged Korean
Playing them is a hugely impressive cast of ensemble performers,
including Oscar nominee, Don Cheadle, as well as Sandra Bullock,
Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Brendan Fraser, Ludacris and Jason
The film that results is described as 'funny, powerful, and always
unpredictable', and one which 'boldly explores the grey area between
black and white, victim and aggressor… and finds no easy
Crash drew mostly positive reviews from critics in America when
it opened in the States on May 6, 2005.
Many found parallels with the style of Magnolia, while several
heralded the arrival of Haggis as not only a talented writer,
but director as well.
Leading the positives is the New Yorker, which
wrote that 'Crash is hyper-articulate and often breathtakingly
intelligent and always brazenly alive - I think it’s easily
the strongest American film since Clint Eastwood’s Mystic
River, though it is not for the fainthearted'.
Variety, meanwhile, noted that 'Haggis knows
how to grab the viewer's attention, via intense confrontations
as well as by planting dramatic seeds that bear fruit in, more
often than not, grimly unexpected ways'.
While Entertainment Weekly observed that 'the
stunning, must-see drama Crash is proof that words have not lost
the ability to shock in our anesthetized society'.
Strong, too, was Rolling Stone which concluded
that 'despite its preachy moments, the film is a knockout. In
a multiplex starved for ambition, why kick a film with an excess
Less impressed, however, was Village Voice,
which lamented that 'full of well-observed supporting riffs, Crash
might've accumulated more frisson had it cast a clearer eye on
how social tension actually plays'.
And Box Office Magazine, which found it to be
'a promising but ultimately disappointing drama about California
But the positives far outweighed the negatives with Efilmcritic.com
stating that 'Haggis turns the screws on a nation’s anxieties
and helps light the way of personal responsibility through conversation
and, if need be, a little divine intervention.'
While Ebert and Roeper conclude this overview
by writing: "I think this is the kind of film that starts
arguments and stimulates passionate discussion about topics that
still make most of us cringe."
Read our review